Footprints In The Snow


snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree

The promise of a beautiful day after last night’s blizzard woke me early. I stood inside the glass storm door in the early sunlight, enjoying the view and a cup of coffee.

Yesterday, a gentle snow started falling in the morning and continued as though a baker was sprinkling confectioners’ sugar on a cake throughout the day. Around midnight the precipitation slowed and transformed into large snowflakes. The kind kindergartners cut from paper and their teacher hung on the classroom bulletin board.   

Footprints in the snow told me he had been here during the night. The boot marks were deep, and I imagined it would have taken great effort to reach the doorbell or trudge around the back; where his key no longer fit, but the door might have been left unlocked.

Stopping by was what he called it.

I remembered yanking those boots off and landing on the floor. When I suggested he loosen the laces first to make the task easier, he said, “You look so cute scolding me.” And joined me on the floor. But my looking so cute did not last during a long winter of frequent storms.

This morning the sun reflected on the ice crystals creating a mysterious pattern and I remembered his smell. The music, laughter, and wearing my best dress. The red one with a side zipper. I closed my eyes and recalled his moist lips on my neck.  

 “He’s not marriage material,” said my sister, Shirley.

I thought of Annie Oakley dressed in burlap, holding a rifle in her hand, and wanted to respond, “he’s great in bed,” but didn’t.

She hugged me. “He calls you Laverne. That’s not your name.”

“It’s a joke! You love the Laverne and Shirley show. I’m Laverne because you’re Shirley,” I blurted, too loudly.

“Did you laugh?” she asked.

He and I broke up not long after.

That spring I watched him throw a Frisbee to his dog in Washington Park but kept driving. What would be the point? He named the dog Max III and had explained his pet didn’t know there had been others.

I pulled over after a few blocks to do the math. Our relationship had lasted two years. If the ratio of dog life to human was seven to one, and Max was the third . . . Multiply the denominators, divided by the numerator . . . Well, it was highly probable I was Laverne #8.

I called my sister. She was snowed in too and suggested the footprints may not be his. “Remember phoning 911 because that man down the street pounded on your front door?”

The neighbor had come home drunk; the brick houses with chain-link fences looked the same and he assumed his wife locked him out.. When police asked for identification, he pulled out his license cursing. They walked him home.

Today, the fences were invisible under the snowfall. By noon the crunch of shovels piercing the hardened snow replaced the quiet, as the wind began to blow. I dressed in heavy clothing and inspected the footprints to determine if the outside heels were worn. They weren’t. The snow glare was unbearably bright and I walked to the store wearing sunglasses.

When I returned, the landlord was shoveling the footprints off the front steps. He stopped and called to me. “Hey Laverne,” leaning on his shovel he asked, “How’s what’s his face?”

I smiled, waved, and went into the house. Reminding him my name wasn’t Laverne and what’s his face and I had broken up one more time seemed silly.

I had a bowl of soup, washed the dishes, hung the kitchen towel, and looked around the apartment. The sofa pillows had been plumped and the crochet afghan folded, the way I liked it. There was nothing on the bedroom floor, the way I liked it.

I thought about getting a dog.

Later that evening, the phone rang. When I said, “hello,” the caller hung up.

Outside a full moon highlighted the piles of crisp white snow and the footprints were gone. But my sister’s words lingered.

I picked up the phone, pressed caller ID, and then dial. When he answered I said, “Jason, it’s Laverne.”

. . . just saying

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Acerbic (Flash Fiction/Short Story)


Polar Fox

“Acerbic” draws on personal experience and is published in FWA, Let’s Talk by Peppertree Press.

The inspiration for this story came after a doctor’s appointment. His nurse is habitually terse and abrasive, so much so that, I asked, “Have I offended you in some way?” She looked at me strangely having no idea she treatment others poorly.

The challenge for the Anthology was to use a dialogue format to present your short story.

The conversation below is between two women in a doctor’s waiting room.



“This is unacceptable!  My time is of value, too.  Why aren’t you complaining?”

“I was told the doctor was running late when I signed in.”

“This is ridiculous.  I’ve been waiting more than twenty minutes.  My appointment was for nine fifteen.  What time was your appointment?”

“Well, I’m not sure; I think nine thirty, why?”

“It’s better if everyone is out of sorts.  I can complain for you, make something up, like your dog is in the car, sick and needs to be taken to the Vet.”

“Reading here is as enjoyable as anywhere.”

“Boy, you people are annoying, must you be so perky and pleasant?”

“You’re upset.  Why don’t you thumb through a magazine?  There’s a travel article about Hawaii in this one.  Have you been there?”

“You think looking at pretty pictures of places I can’t afford to travel to will help me… what?  Be happy I have to wait for a man, I pay to tell me I’m sick.  And looking at colorful advertisements won’t help either.  I’m Acerbic.  My parents and grandparents, on both sides, were Acerbic and proud of it.”

“Acerbic?  Is that … American or … a religion?”

“Acerbic is a way of life.  You got a problem with that?  Our dispositions are generally crabby.  We find fault in others quickly and enjoy being sarcastic.”

“Golly gee, everyone feels crabby from time to time.”

Golly gee?  Golly gee, we’ve been sitting here over a half hour.  Can’t you pretend you’re a little annoyed?  That wing back chair looks awful uncomfortable.  These doctors are all the same; think they’re better than the rest.”

“His nurse said the doctor had an emergency, it sounded serious.  Are you really Acerbic?”

“Our whole neighborhood is Acerbic.  We don’t like friendly.  People yell, ‘Don’t park in front of my house, jerk’ and threaten, ‘If your dog pees on my grass, I will call the police!’  Although things are changing.  Someone, I can’t find out who, moved my garbage pail out of the street on a windy day.”

“You don’t mind if I read my book?’

“Of course I mind.  I get it.  Why not say shut-up?  Add please if you have to.  It’s easy; watch my lips, ‘Will you please shut-up!’ ”

“No, tell me about your life.”

“Actually I had a great childhood.  We owned a small cabin not far from Route. 95 below the Georgia border.  Dad named it Acerbia.  It was a retreat where we could be sour and discontent on weekends and during vacations.  You know, say nasty things about neighbors and relatives.”

“Was that fun?”

“Are you kidding, of course, the best.  By the way, they call me Unfortunately.  I’m Unfortunately Fortunato.  What’s your name?  Not that I care.”

“Unfortunately is a first name?  And Fortunato your family…?”

“Mom wanted an Acerbic name, nothing cheerful or common like Hope, Joy or Grace.”

“That had to be a difficult name for a child.  Did she think it was a mistake?”

“No, Difficult and Mistake are my brothers.  Mother named them good, too, because Difficult is in prison and Mistake, chronically unemployed.”

“Was that a surprise?”

“They still haven’t called anyone.  All they do is talk on the phone.  Someone else has to complain.  You can do it.  I like your pink eyebrows.”

“My eyebrows are pink?”

“Yea, they match your lipstick, compliment that bluish tint in your hair, and look cool on a woman your age.”

“My hair isn’t blue! I’m not that old.”

“Isn’t that book you’re reading in large print?”

“It’s easier I don’t have to remember my glasses.”

“Most seniors get a little forgetful.  It’s normal, not a problem unless you can’t remember what glasses are.  You know glasses magnify things, right?”

“I know what glasses are for and I didn’t forget them.  I do not need them to read a large print book.”

“Did you hear that?  The receptionist called Ms. Fortunato.  That’s me, Unfortunately.  Doc’s ready for me.  Have a rotten, day”

“You too, and my eyebrows aren’t pink!”

P.S. I welcome your comments.